Like a child drawn too close to a blazing fire in spite of all warnings, Maxie was transfixed. She could feel her own heartbeat accelerating, the blood surging rich and vibrantly alive through her veins. A kind of craving, an almost terrifying upswell of excitement potently and powerfully new to her gripped her.
‘A-Angelos...?’ she whispered, feeling dizzy and disorientated.
He reached out and drew her to him without once breaking that spellbinding appraisal. ‘How easily you can say my name...’
And she said it again, like a supplicant eager to please.
Those stunning eyes of his blazed gold as a hot sun with satisfaction. She trembled, legs no longer dependable supports beneath her, and yet in all her life she had never been more shockingly aware of her own body. Her braless breasts were swelling beneath the denim shirt she wore, the tender nipples suddenly tightening to thrust with aching sensitivity against the rough grain of the fabric.
There was a sudden enormous jarring thud on the windowpane behind her. Startled, Maxie almost jumped a foot in the air, and even Angelos flinched.
‘Relax...a football hit the window,’ he groaned in apparent disbelief as he raised his dark, imperious head. ‘It is now being retrieved by two grubby little boys.’
But Maxie wasn’t listening. She had been plunged into sudden appalled confusion by the discovery that Angelos Petronides had both arms loosely linked round her and had come within treacherous inches of kissing her. Even worse, she realised, every fibre of her yearning body had been longing desperately for that kiss.
Jerking back abruptly from the proximity of his lean, muscular frame, Maxie pressed shaking hands against her hot, flushed cheeks. ‘Get out of here and don’t ever come back!’
Angelos grated something guttural in Greek, stood his ground and dealt her a hard, challenging look. ‘What’s the matter with you?’
And what remained of Maxie’s self-respect drained away as she recognised his genuine bewilderment. Dear heaven, she had encouraged him. She had been straining up to him, mindlessly eager for his lovemaking, paralysed to the spot with excitement and longing, and he knew it too. And did his body feel as hers did now? Deprived, aching... As she registered such unfamiliar, intimate thoughts, Maxie realised just how out of control she was.
‘I don’t have to explain myself to you,’ she gabbled in near panic as she rushed past him out into the hall to pull open the front door. ‘I want you to leave and I don’t want you to come back. In fact I’ll put the dog on you if you ever come here again!’
In a demonstration of disturbing volatility, Angelos vented a sudden appreciative laugh, the sound rich and deep and earthy. His quality of dark implacability vanished under the onslaught of that amusement. Maxie stared. The sheer charisma of that wolfish grin took her by surprise.
‘The dog’s more likely to lick me to death...and you?’ An ebullient ebony brow elevated as he watched the hot colour climb in her perplexed face.
‘Leave!’ The word erupted from Maxie, so desperate was she to silence him.
‘And you?’ Angelos repeated with steady emphasis. ‘For some strange reason, what just happened between us, which on my level was nothing at all, unnerved you, scared you...embarrassed you...’
As he listed his impressions Maxie watched him with a sick, sinking sensation in her stomach, for never before had she been so easily read, and never before had a man made her feel like a specimen on a slide under a microscope.
‘Now why should honest hunger provoke shame?’ Angelos asked softly. ‘Why not pleasure?’
‘I do not presume to know your every thought...as yet,’ Angelos qualified with precision. His brilliant eyes intent, he strolled indolently back into the fresh air. ‘But surely when ambition and desire unite, you should be pleased?’
He left her with that offensive suggestion, striding down the path and out to the pavement where a uniformed chauffeur waited beside a long, dark limousine. The two wide-eyed and decidedly grubby little boys, one of whom was clutching the football, were trying without success to talk to the po-faced chauffeur. She watched as Angelos paused to exchange a laughing word with them, bending to their level with disconcerting ease. Disturbed by her own fascination, she slammed shut the door on her view.
He would be back; she knew that. She couldn’t explain how but she knew it as surely as she knew that dawn came around every morning. Feeling curiously like someone suffering from concussion, she wandered aimlessly back down into the kitchen and was surprised to find Liz sitting there, her kindly face anxious.
‘Bounce started whining behind the studio door. He must’ve heard you shouting. I came back into the house but naturally I didn’t intrude when I realised it was just an argument,’ Liz confided ruefully. ‘Unfortunately, before I retreated again, I heard rather more than I felt comfortable hearing. You’re a wretched dog, Bounce...your grovelling greeting to Angelos Petronides affected my judgement!’